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Asda announces "not for profit" price on ALL cancer treatment drugs

*In a world first, Asda announces ‘not for profit’ price on ALL cancer treatment drugs

Asda calls on industry to follow its lead and end price mark ups on cancer treaTment drugs*

Today, in a world first, Asda announces a commitment to sell all privately prescribed cancer treatment drugs on a permanent ‘not for profit’ basis potentially saving thousands of pounds for sufferers. Lung disease is the biggest cancer killer of women in the UK and as part of Asda’s ‘not for profit’ commitment it now means that the price of Iressa, used to treat lung cancer, is now available for £2,167.71 compared to £2,601.25 at Lloyds Pharmacy, £3,251.57 at Boots and £3,253.56 at Superdrug.

Cancer is the UK’s second biggest killer, affecting nearly 300,000 people per year and for many the cost of treatment is well above what they can afford. Research compiled for Asda compared the price of seven of the most commonly privately prescribed cancer drugs available at the main high street pharmacies in the UK where marks ups of up to 76 per cent were uncovered.

Superdrug was found to offer the highest prices on four out of the seven drugs compared and marked up all seven of the drugs by 50 per cent over cost price. Prices at Lloyds and Tesco were consistently marked up by 20 per cent, while at Boots, all seven drugs were marked up by either 50 per cent or 27.5 per cent.

Currently, cancer sufferers in the UK face a three pronged challenge in their battle for affordable treatment:

Pharmacy mark-ups
The cost of private prescription anti-cancer drugs varies significantly between pharmacies, which are able to charge at their discretion and are known to mark up anti-cancer drugs by as much as 76 per cent.

Post code lottery on cancer funding
The annual spend per cancer patient across the 152 PCTs in England can vary by as much as 286 per cent. This ‘postcode lottery’ impacts patients as it determines the cancer treatment people are eligible for on the NHS.

Variations on cancer drug availability on the NHS

There are significant variations in the cancer drugs which are available on the NHS within each PCT. Drugs such as Iressa and Afinitor, which treat Lung Cancer and Kidney Cancer, are only available with a private prescription. This means that should a patient require either drug, they have no other option but to pay for it under a private prescription.

John Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist at Asda, comments:

“The crippling cost of paying privately for cancer treatment has forced many people to spend their savings or even re-mortgage their house to pay for these essential drugs.

“We are the first retailer to recognise this injustice and to do something about it and we are calling on other retailers to follow our lead. It’s a small step in the right direction but, our permanent ‘not for profit’ price on cancer treatment drugs makes them more accessible and can save people hundreds if not thousands of pounds.”

Asda’s new CEO Andy Clarke, who lost his own parents to cancer, supported the move to make these vital drugs available at the lowest possible price.

“Saving people money so they can live better is viewed by many as just the marketing slogan of our parent company, Walmart.

“However, when you see what we can achieve in areas like cancer and ivf treatments to reduce prices, the reality of that mission statement becomes very real and very personal.

“I’m very proud of the work our pharmacy team are doing to lower prices.”

Additionally, Asda is working with suppliers to negotiate further discounts on the trade price of
privately prescribed cancer drugs, with any savings passed directly on to customers as soon as they are available.

According to research by Asda, 63 per cent of people are unaware that private prescription prices vary between pharmacies, with the majority of people (76 per cent) going to the same pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. A staggering 92 per cent of people surveyed have never compared the prices of private prescription drugs.

This announcement follows Asda’s recent ‘not for profit’ commitment on IVF drugs, which saved consumers up to £800 per cycle. For over a decade, Asda has lobbied on behalf of consumers to widen the availability of pharmacy services and products, which has successfully seen the demise of the Resale Price Maintenance (RPM), which allowed drug manufacturers to fix pharmacy prices artificially high.

The ‘not-for-profit’ commitment will be available in store from Monday May 24th, 2010.

Posted in Press Centre on 20 May 2010